In September 2017 the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) announced interim guidance pending new Title IX regulations it will issue in late 2018 or early 2019. Lawrence’s current policies and procedures are compliant with this interim guidance and remain in effect.
The Department withdrew the prior administration’s 2011 and 2014 guidance, which had directed institutions to strengthen their policies and procedures to reduce student-on-student sexual harassment and sexual violence. Although guidance documents lack the force of law, they reflect an administration’s enforcement priorities, as evidenced by the dozens of institutions the Department investigated between 2011 and 2016. Since 2011, more than 150 lawsuits have been filed against universities, most commonly claiming bias against students accused of sexual misconduct and challenging the fairness of university disciplinary proceedings.
The September 2017 guidance and a recent phone briefing we attended with a Department official indicate increased attention to fairness and a less mechanical approach to compliance. For example, the Department withdrew the 60-day deadline for universities to complete investigations, so long as good-faith efforts are evident. In addition, the “Preponderance of the Evidence” standard is no longer required, allowing institutions to require “Clear and Convincing” evidence for a finding of sexual misconduct. No matter which standard universities choose, however, they must apply it consistently across all classes of student misconduct. Because Lawrence already apples the same Preponderance standard for all types of student misconduct, no policy revision is needed. For more information on the Department’s interim guidance, see [http://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/Issue-Brief-Title-IX-QA-2017.pdf].
The rulemaking process is expected to take 12-18 months, resulting in final regulations that have the force of law. Lawrence officials will follow these developments, keep the campus community apprised and, with SHARE’s input, amend our policies and procedures as needed to remain compliant with Title IX.
—Title IX Coordinator Kim R. Jones and University Counsel Julia H. Messitte